Why Paris be called the center of the art world in the 19th Century by Alix Greenberg

Why Paris be called the center of the art world in the 19th Century by Alix Greenberg

Paris should be called the center of the art world in the 19th century. Epitomizing this notion is the Palais de l’Industrie, Universal Exposition, Paris of 1855. Post 1851, these expositions were no longer national, and therefore, a feeding frenzy among all nations in world broke out; these countries saw great benefits of having these expositions, among the benefits was major competition. 1855 was the first year that France held an exposition and all people wanted to come to Paris. At this time, France was not as advanced industrially as other European countries, such as England; therefore, they decided to emphasize French culture, that is the Academy and its artists. Because France wanted to remain superior as the center of culture, and prove that they didn’t need industry to determine their progress as a nation, the government gave the French academicians the Palais des Beaux-Arts as their own exhibition hall. With the decline of the salon system in 1880 and the upsurge of the dealer-critic system, we see that even though the government is no longer totally immersed in the art world in Paris, we see that it is innovative in its making art into career. 

In Great Britain, nationalism was rife in the mid 19th c. and the British art market seemed to direct its attention to middle class buyers, in that, art was available to all people. With Ruskin’s push for valuing modern British art, the public- up to 30,000 visitors a day- would go to see cartoons of British subjects for the new House of Parliament. With Ruskin championing modern British art, centered on living artists, the public went quickly to visit the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the Manchester Art Treasures exhibition of 1857. In “Art Collecting and Victorian Middle-Class Taste,” Macleod writes, “Art has largely progressed in England, Scotland, and Ireland, during the past twenty years, there are now no privileged classes to whom it is an enjoyment from which others are debarred; its advantages may be obtained by all who desire them. It is a teacher of the many, and not of the few. Its lessons have had been so widely disseminated, that the Artisan and the Villager may command all, or nearly all, the resources which, until recently, were regarded as appertaining to the highborn or the rich.” Moreover, in London, the Grosvenor gallery changed the way salon hanging was done in the past; the new hanging system rejected the floor to ceiling arrangement of works and instead allowed for the artist to hang his work together on one wall. Giving this kind of authority to the artist was never done before in the Academies or Salons; now people could view artist as individual. In a way, this hanging aesthetic achieved by the Grosvenor Gallery, eliminated the aristocratic, pompous element of art making and art viewing, and gave way to an arrangement all people from every class could understand and appreciate. They could recognize the artist as a person and connect to him and his work.

Between 1895 and 1900, because of its political and commercial concentration, Berlin overpowered all other regional art capitals as it went from having two to eight galleries within this short time frame. The concentration of these galleries rivaled the dealers located in and around Durand-Ruel’s gallery in Paris. The galleries in Berlin displayed both national art as well as art from other European countries. Berlin’s art market became highly democratized through contemporary art.  

It seems as though by democratizing their art, in Berlin, or making their art available to all classes, in Great Britain, these countries competed with France in their aim to make art for everybody and not just the aristocracy.


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